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Campaigners fear Grenfell review will not deliver crucial safety reforms

UK News | Published:

Dame Judith Hackitt will publish recommendations for overhauling building regulations and fire safety after 10-month probe.

The Grenfell Tower fire claimed dozens of lives (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Proposals to make high-rise flats safer in the wake of the Grenfell Tower inferno will be published amid fears the 10-month probe will fail to deliver crucial reforms.

The review was ordered in the wake of the June 14 disaster, which raised concerns that unclear industry standards had allowed dangerous material to be installed on towers.

Cladding fuelled the spread of the fire that killed 71 people in the west London block and a subsequent safety operation identified hundreds more buildings with similar set ups.

A review of building regulations and fire safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, was set up to make sure there is a “sufficiently robust” regulatory system in place.

Dame Judith has warned that there must be a culture change as well as reform of the regulatory regime and said she wants to create more “robust” oversight of materials, people and installation.

But Labour MP Andy Slaughter said he feared the final report will not go far enough.

He said: “We need architects, designers and builders to be told how buildings should be built to make them safe. For example, only using non-combustible materials or having more than one means of escape.

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“All the indications … are Dame Judith Hackitt’s review is not going to go down that route, but is going to go on about safe systems and systematic answers. With respect, that is not sufficient.

“I want my constituents, and I’m sure everybody else does here, to feel safe.”

Tower block fire in London
The fire engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London in June 2017 (Natalie Oxford/PA)

Ms Mamudu is a core member of the Grenfell Fire Forum, a group with no political affiliations that was set up to prevent a similar disaster, but it was not able to participate in meetings that have informed the final report from Dame Judith.

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“I’m hoping that she is going to prove us wrong,” she said.

“Just for humanity’s sake, she has to ban it. It basically sends the message that if you are not of a certain class or if you are not of a certain person then your life means nothing.”

The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) last month told the Government that it was concerned the review will not deliver the key changes it says are needed to protect the public.

It has called for a ban on flammable cladding, a requirement for sprinklers to be fitted and a second means of escape for high-rise residential buildings.

Tower block fire in London
Dame Judith Hackitt, who chairs the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, appeared before the Communities and Local Government Committee in Portcullis House, London (PA WireP)

The work is expected to cost around £400 million and will cover removal and replacement of cladding at 158 high-rise blocks in the social sector in England.

Labour said a series of commitments made by the Government following the blaze have not been honoured.

Grenfell Tower had been refurbished shortly before the fire in June and had rain-proof cladding and insulation installed, neither of which were fireproof. The fire started with a faulty fridge.

In an interim report in December, Dame Judith found rules on the building and maintenance of high-rise blocks were “not fit for purpose” and left room for people to cut corners.

She said a change in culture was needed to ensure safety is prioritised over costs in the construction industry.

Dame Judith, an engineer who chaired the Health and Safety Executive for nearly a decade, made a series of recommendations in her interim report, including:

– an overhaul of the “approved documents” guidance material in building regulations

– the introduction of an accreditation system to ensure competence of workers

– earlier consultation of fire and rescue services in the design and build stages of project

– formal reviews at the end of the building process

– improvements to fire safety information

– fire risk assessments should be carried out at least once a year in high-rise buildings

– restrictions on the use of desktop studies in fire resistance testing

Phase two of a separate public inquiry, led by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, into the disaster is due to start hearing formal evidence later this month.

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